Hawaii’s US Representative Ed Case is at odds with Governor David Ige’s message Wednesday about federal funding being used to help with the state’s billion-dollar budget shortfall.

The state has received 867 million dollars from the Federal Government’s 2 trillion dollar CARE Act stimulus plan.

“I know that there has been lots of discussion about the 867 million dollars that we are getting from the federal government, but not a single penny can be used to support existing state programs or any of the employees currently employed by the state government,” Ige said about proposed 10-20 percent pay cuts to state employees like teachers, nurses, EMT’s, firefighters, and police officers in the midst of what he calls a 1.5 billion dollar budget shortcoming in the next 15 months.

Ige is technically correct. The US Treasury says that the CARES Act requires that the payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that:

(1) are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19);

(2) were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and

(3) were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

Representative Case says money from the CARES Act should be used for covering revenue losses.

“There are some limitations to be using it but if the available state revenues are utilized for those purposes that might free up some space for him (Ige) to come in and allocate some money and maintain some of the state payrolls,” Case said.

“Our intention in Congress was to allow the states and counties to be able move the money around that we funded to them to their own needs.”

Case believes the allocation of funds provides flexibility.

“That’s relatively up to the state and city to decide how they want to use that money. Now obviously that money was provided because we anticipated that state and county governments would lose tremendous amounts of revenue and face very very difficult budget choices as Governor David Ige are faced with right now. That money is available to help out if that’s how the state and the county want to allocate that money but there are major needs outside of that, unemployment insurance being one of them.”

He added that one of the CARES Act’s goals was to prevent first responders from getting their pocketbooks hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19.

“I think we all agree across the country and congress thinks this way that’s what we were trying to accomplish in the CARES Act but our clear priority was to continue to fund the first responders of our country that are on the front lines of COVID-19 whether they be healthcare workers, or police, and firefighters, or the number of people that are taking their own lives at risk.”

As for what comes after the state runs through the 867 million dollars of federal aid.

“We are talking as we speak in Congress about the next CARES Act to increase the amount that goes to state and county governments for exactly this purpose,” Case said.

Representative Case added that the federal government also funds programs specific to first responders, and that the money is on its way to cities and counties.

A request for comment from Governor Ige’s office was not returned Wednesday.